(Sunday morning, this post was born prematurely and unfinished. I hate when I click the wrong publish date. Sorry about that.)
I don’t know if the recent debate on heaven and hell is finally dying down.
Some people say the especially firey debate may represent a permanent divide in evangelicalism that may never heal. Oh no! All that Christian unity we’ve been working on with each other, down the drain!
I chimed in a few weeks ago and told you that I want to be a universalist. Like a lot of people hoping for a nicer, gentler, hell-free Christianity, I want everyone to get to the good place. I got an avalanche of responses.
But, although I want to be a universalist, I’ve got to tell you that I still believe in hell. You know the oldest protest to the idea of hell. “How could a loving God send people to hell?” Yeah, I think that’s the completely the wrong question to be asking. In fact, I’d say the question we should be asking is, “How could a loving God not send people to hell?”
Bad As I Wanna Be
The first reason I am so sure of the existance of hell: I take a look around. Not at all the natural disasters and wars and things which people call “hell on earth.” I look at the choices people make. People tend to make really stupid choices…repeatedly. People choose to do things that they know will cause hell in their lives. The worst kind of hell is the kind people create for themselves. Some people seem to only be happy when they are miserable.
That’s where we’re wrong about hell. We think people have no choice in whether they go to hell. People choose to go to hell every day of their lives. People choose to treat their spouses like crap. People choose to abuse themselves. People choose to be greedy or lazy or vengeful or unloving. If your life is hell, chances are you created at least part of it. Every time we resist God a little bit, we create a delightful little slice of hell. I have no doubt that God will not be shoving people through the doors of hell. People will be lined up to get in, like Disney World, (which may actually be the first circle of hell.)
Paul said in Romans that where there is no law, we are judged by the law on our hearts. Everyone makes a conscious choice.
Would a Loving God Do That?
“Would a loving God really send people to hell?” Sounds like an airtight question. Either there is no hell, or God is not love. Except every time we ask that question, we ignore the laws of love.
People have come up with thousands of love stories. Maybe millions. Nearly every story has a love interest. Most love stories have the same conflict that drives them: someone is in love, and can’t make the person love them back. Not even genies can make people fall in love. They usually have to say that at the beginning of the story, just so no one gets any crazy ideas.
People keep writing the same stories over and over again because our lives are driven by loving someone, and not being able to make them love us. Even God has chosen to not make us love Him. It’s kind of a law of love. It can be given, but it can’t be taken from someone.
Calvinists think that God’s grace is irresistable (but only to some people). I don’t. People resist God all the time. If God has the ability to make us love Him, He’s not using it. And if He’s not forcing himself on us in this life, He’s not going to make us spend eternity with Him in the next. How satisfying would it be to God to have everyone in heaven, but He knows that no one really had a choice? A truly loving God that craves real love will go to the ends of the earth to earn our love, but will still let all his little creatures go to hell if they please.
What the Hell?
A lot of people defend hell by trying to say that our pitiful human brains just can’t comprehend God’s concept of “love,” which includes sending people to hell. You don’t have to do that. God plays by the same rules we do. You can’t make someone fall in love with you.
And I don’t think that just because someone ends up in hell, they’re going to suddenly fall in love with Jesus. Just like scaring people into faith with the threat of hell may sound a little…disingenuous, how genuine is any “love” going to sound coming from someone trying to escape hell?
That’s it. What do you think? Would a loving God send people to hell, or let them go to hell? Can love really win if it forces us to love God back?